Host: Wooroona Grazing Co.
Written by Claire Dunne – Owner, Wooroona Grazing Co.
The following is an (updated) article from the Graziher blog. Claire Dunne of Wooroona Grazing Co. created the Graziher blog before developing it into a magazine, which is available here.
Mother of two, wife, beef producer and avid photographer; Amanda Salisbury sat down with Graziher in 2014 to chat about country life, cancer, and photography.
Amanda runs the well-known and followed blog ‘Bush Babe of Oz’ and was a founding member of the Outback Paparazzi Facebook Page. She regularly uploads photographs as well as witty, insightful posts featuring life in the country.
Armed with her Nikon camera, Amanda showcases her rural Australia – from sunsets to old buildings and wildflowers to dusty action in the paddock. Her blog documents her family’s life, capturing their transition a decade ago back to rural life, along with the events and moments that fill the country days.
Home is a beef cattle property in beautiful North Burnett, Central QLD. Amanda and her husband run Bimbadeen Brangus Stud and a commercial Brangus herd on rolling granite country. A lovely feature of their property is a river view, which currently has water in it from the 2011/12 floods, after decades of being dry.
“It’s certainly a life filled with colour and beauty and drama and challenges. It’s also a stark contrast to the lifestyle we enjoyed ten years ago, back when we were city-ites. I no longer have shops within 50km, no corner store, no high-speed broadband, no mobile phone signal, no town water, or garbage pickup. Since we moved back to the cattle property where I grew up, I have re-learned to be up-close and extremely personal with Mother Nature and her creatures – some of them gorgeous, some rather confronting. You really never know what’s around the corner . . . ”
How has the weather been treating your property?
We were lucky to get some rain over summer, although it is drying off again. As the weather is cooling off (and our ‘wet season’ evaporates) we are aware that so many throughout Queensland and inland Australia have not enjoyed any rain at all. Like so many, we greet each cloudy day with hope!
You used to live in the city – what inspired the bush change?
Opportunity – we were given a chance to invest in the family business after our children were born. We (my husband Mark and I) had worked for a couple of decades in the city, but both have strong roots in the bush. I was a photojournalist and then a media advisor – my husband a system controller for a power company. Our first child was born with heart problems – a situation which shook us and made us take stock of our futures. Going from regular salaries to partners in a rural business was a huge gamble to take, but one which we felt would pay dividends (not so much financially as for the way in which we wanted to raise our little family). I think we made the right choice!
How do you find country life?
It’s been both better and harder than anticipated. I adore the space – the absolute luxury of space and the special moments of quiet in your own company is something I hope I never stop savouring. I really love knowing we help feed the world – and that our animals enjoy the best care we can possibly provide them. It’s a very satisfying career choice in that way.
We are also so very lucky in this day and age to have access to social media – I cannot say I have ever felt a moment of loneliness.
Growing up in the bush, you know the limitations distance and cost inflict, but experiencing it as an adult is much more real. The health-care side of things is always an issue – one I don’t think we will ever stop battling really.
You have come full circle with your property – growing up on it as a child then coming back to it as a grown woman. Did you always see this as a possible plan?
No, to be quite honest. I have never really been one for The Grand Plan and I have enjoyed every phase of my life and the various places I have lived. But now I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I am so grateful that the stars aligned to allow us the chance to be Bushies again!
How close do you live to town?
We are about 50km from two local towns. The closest major centre (Bundaberg) is almost three hours drive away.
What are your children’s schooling options like? Boarding School?
Yes, boarding school is now a part of our lives. It’s tough in many ways to have our son away, but the school he attends is terrific and kids certainly aren’t “weaned” like we were when we went away to school. Mobile phones are a godsend like that. We talk at least once a day and we are very much part of our son’s life even though he doesn’t sleep under our roof every night. There is of course LOTS of travelling to see him, and even more so next year when our daughter goes away too.
Cancer crept into Amanda’s life early in 2014: June 23rd, 2014 to be exact.
A phone call on a Monday confirmed – after biopsies were taken at an unscheduled mammogram the previous Friday; a diagnosis of Grade 2 cancer.
Were you surprised?
Not really. My mother has had breast cancer, her aunt had breast cancer, my father’s mother had breast cancer. To a certain degree, in my mind, it was always a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.
The two surgeries I required were definitely steep hurdles, but what a good decision (for me). “Operation Double Barrel Shock and Awe” unearthed more nasty little cancers than anticipated and dealt with them in no uncertain terms. And with this choice, no need for radiation. I underwent four doses of chemo – one every three weeks and a year of intravenous Herceptin. I consider the chemo the hardest of my “things to deal with” really – I have enormous respect for those who have to undergo more extensive treatment that is for sure!
With travelling to Brisbane for treatment – how did you find the long distances?
Tricky. Expensive. Tiring. We have over 15,000 km clocked up to it. I have driven the 1100 km round trip (with a co-driver obviously) most of the time for various surgeries, checkups and chemo, and flown down a couple of times (which is less demanding for all but much more costly). But at least I get home between treatments to be with family and in my own space – I know in the past (and for many still) having to stay in the city throughout their treatment is especially tough. I got to recharge mentally each time which is important.
The travel for medical treatment is something rural Australians have to deal with, have you thought about any other alternatives?
I am not an expert on the legal factors involved but health services (like access to chemotherapy) are definitely getting less and less in the bush – my mother had her chemo at the local hospital twenty years ago during her cancer care, but that option is no longer offered. So many patients have to travel huge distances for their treatment – and many are much sicker than I. I am not a medical person at all, and I do know there is huge pressure on local nurses and doctors already, but it would be great to see some kind of move back to reinstating local-based services. Perhaps in time virtual (Skype) specialist consultations will improve and remedy the need for excessive travel (Update: I believe that this is now being introduced into some rural hospitals – a great initiative!).
How are you feeling with your diagnosis?
I had a very good review recently – even if the specialist told me they don’t hand out ‘in remission’ awards! I still feel fortunate to have been diagnosed in the very early stage in this disease. I am a HUGE advocate of early screening – and taking responsibility for your own health – if you think something might be wrong, then GET IT CHECKED.
What has the level of support been for you personally?
Incredible – very, very humbling. Rural communities come into their own in this kind of event I suspect – people step forward to help without question, cooking, accommodating children, feeding animals etc. There aren’t any words to say how grateful I am. Actually, my city friends have been pretty amazing with their support too – just goes to show that regardless of where you come from, people are driven by the same desire to help someone they care about. And social media support has magnified the extent of support beyond my wildest imagination. It gave me the most enormous strength on all levels. And I am slowly getting a little better at accepting help – I struggle a bit with acknowledging I need it! (And I’d take a guess that most women, regardless of where they live, are the same).
For more on Amanda’s back story about cancer pop over to Bush Babe of Oz by following this link.
What does a typical day in the Salisbury house look like?
Well, it’s changed a little. Previously we had a jackaroo living in Quarters close to the house, but who ate meals and socialised with us. Normally, he and my husband would head off after an early breakfast to muster, fence, do waters while I get our daughter ready for school. I have an 30km round trip to her school bus connection, and once that’s done it’s either paperwork, housework, or out in the paddock (usually with camera in hand too) helping out.
I love to ride too – although I am doing it less often since my surgeries – and again the camera often comes (which is bad news for my hat if there is any pace on during the mustering – more than one has been lost this way!). Usually the boys are out most of the day because we live right at one end of our property – sometimes I don’t see them until after dark if I am on house duties.
Weaning is among my favourite jobs on our place – getting to know our next batch of bovine personalities! I hand feed all our weaner bulls – a task which employs patience, calmness, time, and a gentle hand. It’s awesome and almost better than yoga for your inner peace!
Photography – what do you like about it? What do you like capturing?
Anyone who knows me will tell you – my camera is a natural extension of my arm! I have an ingrained need to share the amazing things I get to witness out here – and having been a photojournalist during my city years, it was natural to me to continue to capture the world around me with my Nikon when we moved back out here. Animals, kids, sunsets, windmills, wildflowers, the muster, bush moons . . . all worth immortalising and sharing. It’s a great therapy too – it makes me focus (pardon the pun) on the myriad of amazing things around me, and not get too bogged down in the stuff that we all struggle with from day to day.
Outback Paparazzi . . . how did that come to be set up?
It was an idea born naturally earlier this year, through online chats with other people I had found online – rural-based social-media-savvy chicks who had a passion (like me) for showcasing the great things about bush life. The core Outback Paparazzi group includes best-selling WA author Fleur McDonald and amazing outback QLD photographer Ann Britton. It’s the response from readers of all walks of life and from all corners of globe (whose images we also love to share) which really keeps it going. I love that people who might live urban lives but yearn for something country, visit and get a little dose of the bush from right across Australia.
All photography by Amanda.
Join Amanda at:
Amanda also produces a bush calendar annually – with $2 from each going to charities close to her heart: HeartKids Australia and breast cancer research.
BB of Oz calendar: http://bushbabeofoz.com/calendar-orders/
Outback Paparazzi: https://www.facebook.com/outbackpaparazzi